ST. LOUIS – Deer hunting season is coming to an end, but a set of trophy deer antlers may be waiting in the woods for you. This time of year, bucks begin to lose their antlers. Shed hunting is a sport that people do as the hunting season winds down.
“It kind of gives you an alternate way to hunt deer; you might think of it that way,” said Dan Zarlenga, with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “The process of going through woods or fields or whatever and looking for antler sheds that the bucks give off or that they lose after the mating season is over.”
This happens as a buck’s testosterone levels drop and their antlers are no longer needed, occurring from mid to late January into February. Shed hunting is a fun way to enjoy nature during the winter.
“You don’t have to know anything about hunting. You don’t have to be a hunter. You don’t need a license or anything like that. You can bring the kids, go out and do it, and it’s a neat family activity even,” Zarlenga said.
The best place to look for sheds is the same place where it’s good to look for deer.
“Conservation areas, state parks, or, if you’ve got property, anywhere where’s there are deer is a good place to look for them,” said Zarlenga.
Even St. Louis County has a lot of wooded areas where you may find some of these antlers.
Zarlenga says if you’re in a hilly area, look on south facing slopes that receive a lot of sunlight because that’s where deer like to lay down and hangout. If you’re in a flat area, look along the borderline between woods and fields. Also look near water sources.
Bring binoculars if you have them. These are helpful for distinguishing antler tines from sticks and can save you some walking time. Going on a cloudy day can help because the light is more even, making it easier to spot antlers. Also, going after a rain can help the antlers glisten and stand out from the darker, wet leaves surrounding them.
You can bring the antlers home, but Zarlenga reminds us that if you find antlers attached to a skull you must contact your local conservation agent within 24 hours to let them know you have them so that you’re able to keep them.
“If you didn’t get that big buck during the regular hunting season you might get it’s antlers after the hunting season,” Zarlenga said.